Gardai involved in the dramatic rescue of Don Tidey, an IRA kidnapping victim, who was held in Drumcroman Woods, Derrada outside Ballinamore were honoured almost 40 years after the event; yesterday at Dublin Castle.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and interim justice minister Heather Humphreys presented the Scott medal, An Garda Siochana’s highest honour, to 15 deceased and serving members of the force.
Garda Gary Sheehan and Army Private Patrick Kelly were fatally shot by an armed IRA gang during the operation at Drumcroman Woods, Derrada in Co Leitrim on December 16 1983.
Supermarket executive Don Tidey had been captive for 23 days after being kidnapped outside his Dublin home as he took his 13-year-old daughter to school a month earlier.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: “In all of your actions during this search operation you strove to protect the life of Mr Don Tidey and the lives of your fellow Gardai. Each one of you demonstrated outstanding bravery and physical courage.
"And the dedication to duty and bravery you demonstrated on December 16 1983 remains an example to all of us who continue to serve. And that kind of skill is required in our work today more than ever. And on behalf of An Garda Siochana, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to you all for your service.”
The Scott medal is awarded for the “most exceptional bravery and heroism involving the risk of life in the execution of duty”.
Jennifer McCann, the younger sister of Gda Sheehan, said his killers, who were never brought to justice, still have his death on their conscience. She said: “Gary did not die in vain and for that we are very grateful. We are happy that Mr Tidey has had all this time with his family. We have chosen over the past 38 years to remember the happy times we had with Gary. To become bitter would have been a betrayal.
“Although the perpetrators of this terrible crime have not been brought to justice, they know who they are. Their friends, friends and family know who they are. They have the murders of Gary and Private Patrick Kelly on their conscience.”
John Somers, accepting the award on behalf of his father Detective Inspector William Somers, said it was a miracle his father had survived the fateful night.
He said: “I saw the bullet holes in his jacket, his elbow and his boot and they were taken away the next day for evidence." Mr Somers’ father was the first Garda on the scene to find Mr Tidey. Det Insp Somers was fired upon during the operation, and John believes the trauma of that night stayed with his father for the rest of his life.
Walter Rice, a retired assistant Garda commissioner, was among those shot at during the rescue said the people who caused the atrocities that day were "Common criminals, they had nothing to lose. Certainly, as far as I’m concerned, they were no freedom fighters. No freedom fighter would tie up a man and keep him like a wild animal for weeks on end. Shooting an unarmed Garda."
Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council Paddy O'Rourke attended the ceremony. He said it was an honour to attend the "very sombre event." Cllr O'Rourke is pictured with Garda Recruit Sheehan’s mother Margaret, his sister Jennifer and Chief Superintendent Aidan Glackin.
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